The last invasion of Britain

22 February 

It is commonly (wrongly) believed in the UK that the last time the French landed by armed force on British soil was nearly 1000 years ago, when in 1066 Guillaume le Conquérant popped over to say hello.  Most people would be surprised to learn about The Battle of Fishguard, which was a military invasion of Great Britain by revolutionary France during the war of the First Coalition  The brief campaign, on 22–24 February 1797, is the most recent landing on British soil by a hostile foreign force, and thus is often referred to as the “last invasion of Britain”. The French General Lazare Hoche had devised a three-pronged attack on Britain in support of the Society of United Irishmen. Two forces would land in Britain as a diversionary tactic, while the main body would land in Ireland. Adverse weather and ill-discipline halted two of the forces but the third, aimed at landing in Wales and marching on Bristol, went ahead.

After brief clashes with hastily assembled British forces, led by Lord Cawdor, and the local civilian population, the invading force’s commander, Colonel William Tate, was forced into unconditional surrender on 24 February. In a related naval action, the British captured two of the expedition’s vessels, a frigate and a corvette.

Royal Oak Pub in Fishguard, where Lord Cawdor set up his headquarters


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